Wednesday News Review

Pressure mounts on Lansley

Sir David Nicholson, the NHS‘s chief executive, has warned health bosses that patient care should not suffer as a result of the service’s need to save £20bn by 2015. The axeing of 560 frontline jobs by the London Ambulance Service forced Nicholson to issue his second reminder in 72 hours to NHS managers not to cut back on the services they provide. It was the potential closure of ambulance stations in the capital and significantly increased use of solo paramedics to respond to calls that prompted his intervention. On Monday the Royal College of Nursing issued a dossier of evidence documenting 40,000 job cuts in the NHS and closure of services in areas such as mental health and alcohol dependency. Increasing cuts to NHS services, caused by the service facing a range of serious financial pressures, are emerging at the same time as David Cameron and his health secretary, Andrew Lansley, want to show that they are listening to the widespread concerns about their planned shake-up of the NHS in England. – the Guardian

The Government’s NHS plans came under sustained attack today as a leading A&E chief condemned cuts to the front line. As Andrew Lansley faced a no confidence vote from nurses at the Royal College of Nurses Congress, the NHS’s chief executive also warned that budget pressures should not be allowed to hit acute services. Sir David Nicholson said “there is no excuse to reduce services for patients” in the face of efficiency savings, adding “every penny saved from measures taken to reduce costs will be reinvested in patient care”. His comments come amid claims that doctors are being prevented from prescribing drugs for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease as NHS managers battle to impose budget cuts. The Health Secretary has been criticised for his decision to meet a group of about 50 nurses today instead of addressing the whole conference. RCN general secretary Peter Carter said of the choice, “Congress is going to interpret it as him not having the courage to speak to them.” – Politics Home

A&E waiting times up

The number of patients waiting more than four hours in A&E has leaped by almost two thirds since the Government announced it was scrapping a key target. Figures show thousands more people were spending more time in emergency departments, walk-in centres and minor injury units last year compared with the year before. Last June, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley relaxed a four-hour A&E target which was scrapped this month and replaced with new measures. In the six months from July to December 2009, 176,522 people waited more than four hours, but this rose to 292,052 people in the same period last year – a 65 per cent increase. Of the total arriving at A&E from July to September 2009, just over one per cent waited more than four hours, rising to just over two per cent last year. – the Evening Standard

Parliament given 6 months to enact prisoner votes

European judges yesterday gave David Cameron a six month ultimatum to give prisoners the vote after snubbing the views of the UK parliament. The Coalition lost its final appeal against a ruling that some inmates should be allowed to vote because of their human rights. The rejection, from the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, came despite a vote in parliament that overwhelmingly opposed giving prisoners a vote. It means the Government now has until September to act or face a flood of compensation claims, which it will almost certainly lose. And Europe is even demanding that it dictate a time frame in which the Government passes any necessary legislation. Ministers were last night “disappointed” by the decision while one MP accused the Strasbourg court of “shocking arrogance” to dismiss the concerns of British politicians. – the Telegraph

PCS warns of widespread strike action

More than 250,000 public servants in could join a national strike in June against job cuts, a pay freeze and the coalition government’s plans to reform their pensions, a union said Tuesday. The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said its national executive had unanimously backed plans for the strike, which would be the largest industrial action taken since the Conservative-led government took power last May.  If ratified by the union’s annual conference starting on May 18, a ballot would be held the following week and the first strike might take place in June. The PCS said it was talking to other unions about coordinating ballots, creating the prospect of widespread industrial action, as predicted by many commentators in the wake of the government’s austerity plans. – Reuters

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